Hail the Celebrity Chef

December 08 2007 - 1:05 PM

I was watching a Saturday morning movie on basic cable and was interrupted by commercial after commercial featuring Serena Williams’ clothing line and that new Nintendo DS gadget that lets you “play guitar.” Maybe it was the 10 minutes of that Orange County Wives that soured me but it also might have been the week in Houston where malls ran into malls and Maggianos ran into Gran Lux and into the Chocolate Factory. I’m sure the menus run into each other as much as the wait-staff do. And they all go shopping on their days off.

I worry that what has happened in Houston could and will happen in Chicago. We’ve always had sports stars open restaurants – Chris Chelios and Ditka’s bouncy castle for sale not to mention Jordan’s but they’ve always started car dealerships too.

I worry about the Gordon Ramsay explosion. Mario Battali’s not-so-new anymore Del
Posto sounds like it’s the opposite of Babbo. Shawn McClain, here in
Chicago, has Green Zebra, Spring and Custom House. But these are all
different. The Maggianos next to the hotel in Houston is exactly the
same as the Maggianos at the mall here. Ramsay’s Hospital Road
restaurant is definitely not the same as La Noisette. Green Zebra
specializes in vegetables and Custom House in slow cooked meat.

But what will happen when they sell out? Will all fine dining menus
read the same in spring and fall? Cassoulets, braised something in
pasta, fish with some puree, panfried something and a confit of
something else? Gelees, carpaccios, etc. Maybe they are all the same.

But in a country where we seem to not want to make choices and
consequently end up with homogenized corporate radio and the Gap’s
equally homogenized clothing I only hope that our food keeps fighting.
So this holiday get your pies and cakes from your local bakery, not your grocery. Get out
the yellow pages and try and find one.